This was the half Ben Howland spent the season dreaming about.
The visions danced around Howland’s subconscious, R.E.M. never better: UCLA playing gritty defense, handling the glass, moving with efficiency and rhythm.
For the first 20 minutes today, the Bruins danced alright, waltzing right over Arizona for a 40-30 halftime advantage.
Reeves Nelson took the lead, scoring 16 first-half points and grabbing 10 rebounds while carrying UCLA back from a small deficit along with Joshua Smith.
Down 19-18 with 8:49 left in the half, Nelson scored 10 and Smith seven in a 5-plus minute stretch, the Bruins taking a 36-28 lead before going into the half up 40-30.
Before Nelson and Smith took charge, Tyler Honeycutt was having his way, scoring an early eight points, but more importantly, taking care of the ball.
Honeycutt had zero turnovers, the Bruins only had five as a team, and aside from foul trouble – Smith, Stover and Lazeric Jones each have two – UCLA played its best half of the season, despite 13 points from Arizona’s Derrick Williams.
But here’s the catch: Can they keep Howland’s dreams alive?